Alice Springs tracks students with GPS



blog Sometimes it’s hard to believe that George Orwell’s famous novel 1984 was fiction. With a huge amount of money going into CCTV camera/facial recognition infrastructure around Australia (which police can watch live through their iPads), video cameras being attached to every police officer, mobile fingerprint readers and the Government seeking to store all of our telecommunications data, one wonders whether Orwell was merely a little ahead of his time. The latest privacy invasive technique comes courtesy of The Australian newspaper, which reports that a school in Alice Springs is using GPS tracking to ensure kids attends school. The newspaper writes (we recommend you click here for the full article):

“Centralian Middle School has about 60 families signed up to the new program, which links students’ phones with electronic class ­attendance roles. If a child fails to attend class, parents automatically receive a text message notifying them of the absence, along with a link to the GPS location of their child.”

Now, I’m as concerned a parent as the rest of them. Like everyone else, I want to make sure that my family is OK. But tracking your child via GPS signals from their mobile phones seems a little extreme; it kind of implies both that you don’t trust the child to start with, as well as that they need to be subject to a technological control regime to keep them under control. Not precisely the best message to send children; unless, of course, you’re seeking to set them up for a life of living in an overbearing surveillance state that tracks their every move. In that context, perhaps the powers that be feel that managing expectations ahead of time is a good idea.

One suspects that the better solution to this issue is for adults to start treating children as adults — trusting them, respecting them, spending time with them, building in respect and responsibility into their relationships, and giving them freedom within safe boundaries until they’re grown. The solution to long-term education and parenting issues cannot be found through technological control.


  1. Do they somehow prevent the students from turning off the GPS? Seems to be a dumb idea right out of the starting blocks.

  2. … only one kid in class, with a bag full of his classmates phones. Perfect attendance!

  3. A lot of people think they can solve the issues of parental responsibility and teaching by throwing some sort of technology at it – look at net nanny software, a means of control that can be easily circumvented by just using a different computer beyond their control. Teach kids responsible values and they’re never going to bother, no matter what physical access they have.

  4. Does that mean *requiring* a student to not only have a phone, but a GPS-enabled one is a prerequisite for enrolling at the school?

  5. There are demographic issues here also, the school in question looks nothing like the Anglo middle class environment in the stock photo. The local government in the NT wants to hold parents responsible for school attendance and has demonstrated a wiliness to use financial penalties as a stick. You will not that the system alert the parents and not a truancy officer is voluntary and is targeted at parents of kids that have a record of skipping out on school. It gives the parents another tool to do what wider society expects of them.

    BTW if you have a company supplied smart phone GPS tracking is normally a standard option as part of most MDM systems.

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